NEW measures to halt a worrying decline in villages being stripped of their community buildings and to clamp down on rogue business owners deliberately driving rural pubs and shops into the ground so they can make money selling them off as homes are being introduced in the North York Moors.
Rural communities across the national park are becoming increasingly unsustainable as buildings such as village halls, schools, shops and pubs struggle to survive in the face of declining levels of people living in the countryside.
Strict planning rules were imposed by the North York Moors National Park Authority 10 years ago to help stop the life being strangled out of villages.
But with the problem continuing to get worse, new detailed guidelines are being issued to highlight the stringent rules in place over converting former businesses into homes and to try to protect communities and put a stop to the decline.
National park authority chiefs have claimed the new guidelines, which are set to be agreed at an planning meeting tomorrow, are also intended to clamp down on people who take over a rural business only to deliberately make it unsustainable so they can sell it off for residential use.
“People really are concerned when the last village pub or shop closes and they want the planning authority to do something about it,” said Chris France, the director of planning at the park authority.
“That is absolutely reflected across the North York Moors and is exacerbated in deeply rural areas.
“We are seeing a gradual decline in the economic vitality and it is apparent that our pubs and shops are really struggling.
“We have people coming to us and asking what they can do – the problem is getting more acute.
“It is important to hang on to the employment and business opportunities we already have.
“This new advice is going further than that.
“In the first instance it will try to stop that change to use happening but we cannot just let a building stagnate – this is providing advice to people about what they can do.
“But we also want to put people off trying to pull a fast one and it lets them know how difficult it is.
“We haven’t gone into this level of detail before.”
Under the new measures, applicants who wish to convert buildings to residential use will need to supply trading accounts over the past five years to demonstrate that it is no longer viable, as well as give detailed reasons why it is no longer usable for community or commercial re-use.
For proposals to change the use of community buildings such as churches and schools, applicants will need to submit information on why the business is surplus to requirements and details on alternative facilities in the area.
Robert Goodwill, the Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, has welcomed the new guidelines.
“I am aware that there have been cases where the allegation has been made where the person has been deliberately trying to run down a pub to turn it into residential use,” he said.
“People can make a lot more money selling a building off as a house rather than a business.
“The national park authority is quite right to make it clear that it will robustly resist these applications where there is any suggestion that it is being engineered and make it clear that people cannot get away with it.
“If villages lose community buildings then villages will lose their heart.
“Once these buildings are turned into houses, there is no going back.”
Last year, an investigation into the housing problem in rural England by the Commission for Rural Communities, the Countryside Alliance, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the National Housing Federation highlighted hundreds of village shops, pubs, bus services, village halls and post offices shutting down every year due to a lack of affordable homes.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Yorkshire
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: North west